Skipper confident his side have the character to stay in the title race

Captain James Ferrara in action.
Captain James Ferrara in action.
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Captain James Ferrara insists Phantoms must start games better to climb out of their mini-slump.

The city outfit have gone down to four successive English Premier League losses and have failed to find the net in eight periods of hockey.

Ferrara acknowledges turning around the dip in form, which has brought double defeats at the hands of Milton Keynes and table-toppers Basingstoke in the past two weekends, will be the toughest challenge to date in an excellent season.

Phantoms’ first opportunity to regain their scoring touch comes on Saturday when they travel to Sheffield (7.30pm) ahead of a revenge mission against arch rivals MK at Planet Ice the following night (Sunday, 5.30pm).

And the latest derby clash takes on even more significance as it arrives only days before Phantoms and Lightning meet in a two-legged EPL Cup semi-final.

Ferrara said: “I felt we deserved at least a point from the home games against Milton Keynes and Basingstoke, but our performances in the two away games were not among our best.

“We started all four of the games slowly and were behind at the end of the first period in each of them. We can’t afford to do that, especially against the top teams, as it makes the job so much harder.

“We need to ensure we come flying out of the blocks this weekend and get on top of the games early on.

“It’s a case of the sooner a goal comes the better and we certainly hope it will happen in Sheffield.

“But it is important we focus on executing our game-plan there and against Milton Keynes on Sunday, and not worry about the results that have already gone.

“Chances will come and it is about putting them away to get the confidence flowing again.”

Ferrara is adamant Phantoms possess the character, as well as the quality, to remain in the thick of the race for the EPL title.

They sit second despite their recent losing run but have seen a five-point pre-Christmas cushion at the summit turn into a five-point deficit on new leaders Basingstoke.

Ferrara added: “It is the first time this season we have found ourselves fighting adversity and it is against ourselves more than anything because of the lack of goals.

“The guys are all disappointed as they expect a lot from themselves and it hasn’t really happened for them lately.

“Things are not always going to go your way during a 54-game season, but we need to focus on playing to our strengths individually and collectively.

“It is certainly a learning curve, but hopefully our character and togetherness will shine through.”